Thursday, June 23, 2016

The morning after in the UK

There is a wonderful book ("The Morning After") by journalist Chantal Hebert about what would have happened in Canada in case the secessionists had won the referendum of 1995 in Quebec. To write the book, she interviewed all the main leaders involved in that referendum campaign, and the conclusion was that nobody had a clue about how to manage a "leave" vote. Those in favour of independence were uncertain and divided about how to proceed and how to implement the hypothetical "will of the people." In the event, the "remain" vote prevailed by the narrowest of margins, the stock markets and the Canadian Dollar went up and the liberal federalists little by little recovered their political hegemony. Well, now Chantal Hebert can compare her hypothetical exercise with the real thing. The United Kingdom is today experiencing its day after. By a narrow margin, they have decided to leave the European Union. The leaders of the "leave" campaign, which include from fascists to apparently civilized conservative politicians, claim that they want to keep trading freely with the European Union countries. But unfortunately during the campaign they have not explained how will they manage to negotiate a free trade agreement with a club they just have decided to leave, or how long will it take them to reach such agreement. Meanwhile, the "remain" vote has won in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and leaders there are asking for their right to separate from a non-EU United Kingdom. The pound has descended in a few hours to the lowest level since 1985 and credit rating agencies are suggesting that they may downgrade their evaluation of British debt. Other national-populist leaders in European countries, including Marine Le Pen in France, have not yet asked for a similar referendum in their countries probably because they have not waken up yet. Turmoil in the very short run, huge uncertainty in the long run. Congratulations, Mr. Cameron. (I wrote this while listening to Nigel Farage on TV: it's scaring).

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